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Hackathon Preparation: Learning a new technology

 

Author – Gloria Thomas

 

The beginning of our venture

This was not the first hackathon that I had attended, but this wasn’t a hackathon we were expecting to be selected for. It was Reboot Kerala Hackathon 2020. The whole class had registered as a team of six people each! Who wants to miss a chance of going to a hackathon? Free food and all those goodies without any registration fees!

The first phase

The first phase was answering some problem statements in a lucid and creative manner. The problem statements resonated with the real-world problems that we face today, for instance, waste management, food shortage, expanding education.

We got selected for our answer under the Department of Social Justice. Sounds cool right? It does. So, for the second phase of the hackathon, we had to devise a mobile application or a device for women safety! That sounds even more interesting, isn’t it? But, no one in our team had the basic idea of android development.

The second phase- time to work

So we initially started planning a device that would send alert signals to nearby police stations and family members in a single trigger. But, building a mobile application for those who are comfortable with mobiles and leaving the device for the others seemed to be a better option.

Technology requirements of the project

For the device, we needed  WiFi communication or GSM communication to send signals. Other options like LoraWan didn’t seem to be a wise option for us, given that the speed was just 27kbps. It could be slow in times of danger. In the end, we adopted GSM technology for sending alert signals. Sam Sunny of our team was the Arduino expert. So the device was completely set up and made to work by him alone.

Given the limited time of approximately 5 days (we spent a few days in planning so only 5 remained…) and all the features that it could have, it was practically impossible to figure out and learn by ourselves and then build the app. Seriously! But we found a way out!

“Believe you can, and you are halfway there.”

This is when your geeky college seniors come into play. We asked our senior, Bibin Johnny to guide us in order to accelerate the task. He had made a similar SOS app before, so he was reliable and he easily understood the app requirements that we wanted. He gave us small assignments in the beginning and later divided the whole project among the six of us. So we could apply the divide and conquer rule!

Beginning from scratch? Divide your work

The UI/UX of our application was developed by Mikdhad and Irfan, the backend that involved single trigger SOS activation, finding GPS location and sending alert signals, tracking the route and other features was handled by Sam, Agnes and Shivani, and I took the task of connecting the app to the database and updating the database. We all began with strong determination and till the end, our team- Team Panacea ( ‘Panacea’ means a solution for all difficulties!), remained undeterred and completed all the tasks that, at some point during our venture, seemed impossible to finish.

Up and running

How do you define happiness? For me, happiness at that moment was to see our application ‘Safer’ (the name of our application), running smoothly and sending alert signals triggered by voice, by side button as well as the SOS button in the application and calling the phone numbers that we registered as the emergency dial and to see the electronic device sending messages with the GPS location. It was a big project for us sophomores.

After the development process, we proudly presented our application to the judges and we got selected to the final round. Though we did not win the hackathon, our real achievement was that we learnt to develop the weapon. I would call it a weapon because it would act as a weapon to the people who are in danger and for us, it was the weapon to break open the gates of the final round of the hackathon!

Conclusion

To conclude, I want to encourage you to never hesitate to learn new technologies and make a project on it. All you need is a perfect mindset to start and dogged determination! I know already got them after reading my hackathon experience! You could help millions with your project. Never stop experimenting! See you in my next blog!

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Gloria Thomas

Author
Rajiv Gandhi Institute Of Technology

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